Theresa May’s attitude to foreign takeovers is about to be tested as the Hong Kong-based billionaire Li Ka-shing and Chinese state power giants plot bids for a significant electricity network. Electricity North West, which supplies 5m people from Manchester to rural Cumbria, is being sold by US bank JP Morgan and Australian investor Colonial First State for an estimated £2bn. The auction, which is due to begin later this month, will attract a spectrum of infrastructure investors, with UK pension funds lining up against overseas bidders including Li’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure (CKI) and Spain’s Iberdrola. However, expected interest from State Grid Corporation of China and China Southern Power Grid will pose the biggest challenge to the government. Several City sources said the two state-owned operators, which have been trying to acquire assets across Europe, were expected to participate in the auction. Electricity North West, one of 14 distribution network operators, covers an area that includes the Sellafield nuclear waste dump and Britain’s nuclear submarine factory at Barrow-in-Furness. May’s wariness of Chinese investment led her to delay the go-ahead on the £20bn Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset so the government could scrutinise the role of China General Nuclear (CGN) in the project. CGN has a 33% stake in the plant, Britain’s first nuclear power station for a generation, and wants to build its own reactors in the UK. May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy has accused the government of “selling our national security to China”.
Times 3rd Feb 2019 read more »